May 2012

Boost Grants Make an Impact

Seattle’s Department of Information Technology Community Technology programs awarded 16 Online Boost grants to Seattle-based neighborhood groups, community interest groups and nonprofit organizations. Here are some projects from last year that made an impact through the use of social media and online tools designed specifically to engage their communities and encourage civic participation. The deadline for the 2012 Online Boost grants is fast approaching – May 15, 2012. Go here.

Maiwut South Sudanese Refugee Services was having a difficult time developing an online presence, which they believed would be invaluable for distributing community and human services information for new refuges from South Sudan. Their goal was to design and develop a website, establish a Facebook and Twitter presence, and create a mechanism for fundraising through their website. They created a website, and designed and distributed brochures in English and Sudanese to promote their site. Visit them here.

Fremont Neighborhood Council’s goals were to build a new web presence for Fremont Neighborhood Council, establishing a unique domain name, migrating content from an outdated website and blog, integrating Facebook, adding community contact capability and online membership payments, and connecting our database to online updating. As a result FNC has an incredibly active blog, generating content on a regular basis that informs the Fremont community and encourages participation in local community and business events. Visit them here.

Text Readability

Keep the following guidelines in mind for displaying text:

  • Avoid very small text. This not only impacts some users with low vision, but many users with cognitive disabilities as well.
  • While serif fonts (e.g., Times) are more readable when printed, both serif and sans-serif fonts are appropriate when displaying body text onscreen, as long as the font is clean and readable.
  • Underlined text should be avoided, except to designate links.
  • Minimize the number of different fonts used on a page. Two to three fonts is optimal.
  • ALL CAPS should be used minimally. It is more difficult to read and is often interpreted as “shouting.” Additionally, screen readers may read all-caps text letter by letter (like an acronym) rather than as full words.

FCC Digital Literacy Commentary

The City of Seattle and the Washington State Council on Digital Inclusion (CoDI) have submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on proposed changes in rules that would expand telephone support programs to include broadband deployment and adoption.

Comments support the FCC’s desire to use savings from the Lifeline Program/Universal Services Fund to support a digital literacy grant program and other services to improve digital literacy and broadband adoption among Americans who face barriers to access and use. The City and CoDI, which is coordinated as part of the Communities Connect Network Project, call for non-profits as well as schools and libraries to be eligible for the grants, for a range of residents in need to benefit, and for longer term planning and incentives for support. See more on our blog or read the FCC filing [PDF].

Broadstripe’s New Seattle TV Station Fee

Starting in April 2012, Seattle Broadstripe cable customers started seeing a new $3.05 charge on their monthly bill called “Seattle TV Station Fee.”  The charge is Broadstripe’s method for recovering increased costs due to retransmission consent fees they are now paying to local television stations in order to carry their broadcast signals.

In the past, cable companies might have covered these costs with basic rate increases. However, many companies are now choosing to list the cost as a separate billing line item, to give customers visibility on the nature of the increased costs.

The issue of broadcasters charging retransmission consent fees is an area of growing dispute across the nation. Although it is broadcasters and cable providers who battle over the fees, it is the TV viewers who ultimately pay them. For more background on this issue of retransmission consent fees, see May 2011 article Retransmission consent fees: Broadcasters want more from everyone.

Youth Questionnaire on Technology and Civic Engagement

The City of Seattle, Metrocenter YCA and FUSE Labs Microsoft Research, are working together to get a better understanding of how people between the ages of 14 and 25 use technology for community or political activities with the goal of improving local community web sites such as Puget SoundOff.

This questionnaire is completely voluntary. Responses are confidential and used only for the purposes of the research project. The questionnaire takes about 20 minutes to complete and all survey respondents are entered into the Microsoft qweekpstakes and eligible to win software and games. The survey can be accessed here.

Seattle Mini Maker Faire

The mini Maker Faire, to be held June 2-3 at Seattle Center, is Seattle’s version of a two-day, family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. The Maker Faire is a public gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkers, hobbyists, science clubs, students, authors and commercial exhibitors. It’s an exciting event for Makers and aspiring Makers of all ages and backgrounds. The inaugural Maker Faire was held in San Mateo, California, and in 2011 celebrated its sixth annual Bay Area event with some 100,000 people in attendance.

“Maker Faire offers the opportunity for us to see ourselves as more than consumers; we are productive; we are creative. Everyone is a maker and our world is what we make it. Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. It’s a venue for makers to show examples of their work and interact with others about it.”

See the website for more or contact them if you want to display or volunteer.

New Apps Contest Launched

Seattle, King County and Washington State have just launched the Evergreen Apps Challenge, a challenge designed to encourage the development of applications using government data while stimulating economic development throughout our state. More than $75,000 in prize money will be awarded to top apps in seven different categories. The Challenge is a partnership between Seattle, King County, and Washington State, part of Startup Weekend GOV. If you have an idea for an application that would benefit the people who live in Washington State, share it at the Evergreen Apps ideascale site.

The contest was kicked off over the April 26-28 weekend, when some 120 developers, designers, entrepreneurs and mentors from the public and private sectors participated in the first-ever Startup Weekend Government. They worked for 54 hours nearly non-stop at City Hall to create apps that use open data from Seattle, King County and Washington State. Read a great account of it on the Mayor’s Blog here. Check out the awesome new apps started in the weekend.

What are Password Managers?

So many things we do on the web require a password. We use one every time we want to conduct online banking, buy something online, even just to access another part of a website. How do we remember all those passwords? Our Information Security Office at the City’s Department of Information Technology educates the public to use unique passwords, think of phrases that will help us remember them, use symbols in addition to numbers and letters, etc. (Visit for our Home Computer and Internet Security Brochure for more ways to create passwords), but remembering all those passwords is nearly impossible. This is where a password manager comes in handy.

There are three basic kinds of password managers: desktop password manager software, online password manager services, and password manager apps for smartphones like iPhone and Android phones. David Matthews, deputy information security officer for the City of Seattle, recommends two programs that he uses that are free and work really well.

Last Pass is a free web-based program that manages all your passwords, including those that allow you to access your WiFi connections. You install it on your computer and create a master password that you can use to access your other passwords from any computer. For a small fee of $1 per month, you can upgrade to the premium version, which has more features and eliminates ads and gives you access to managing your passwords via a mobile device.

Another free program Matthews recommends is UPM which is very good for Android-based mobile devices as well as Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux based computers.

For more security tips, check out the techtalk blog.


Ted-ED enables you to “Flip a Lesson,” turning a video into a customized lesson that can be assigned to students or shared more widely.